• If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels' move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge.

    FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2010 file photo, bales of marijuana are wheeled out at a news conference in Jonesboro, Ga. Forty-five people were arrested 45 people along with cash, guns and more than two tons of drugs as part of an investigation by federal and local law enforcement into the Atlanta-area U.S. distribution hub of Mexico's La Familia drug cartel. Drug cartels have long been the nation’s No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs, but in the past, their operatives rarely ventured beyond the border.
    LAST UPDATE : Apr 01, 2013, 12:08 PM EDT
  • FILE - In this June 10, 1993 file photo, Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo" Guzman, is shown to the media after his arrest at the high security prison of Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

    One of the dead in a gunbattle between drug gangs is said to resemble Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

    LAST UPDATE : Feb 22, 2013, 10:18 AM EST
  • In this Jan. 25, 2013 photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection pilots navigate a P3 Orion Airborne Early Warning Aircraft while flying over waters near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The Central American country abolished its army in 1948 and plowed money into education, social benefits and environmental preservation. As a result, Costa Rican officials say, the country can’t battle ruthless and well-equipped Mexican drug cartels without U.S. help. The U.S. is patrolling Costa Rica’s skies and waters and

    The government has launched a tough line on crime backed by a top-to-bottom transformation of its law-enforcement and justice systems.

    LAST UPDATE : Feb 18, 2013, 4:58 PM EST
  • Police drive along a dirt road leading to a ranch near the town of Mina, in northern Mexico, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013.

    Near the site where 20 members of a Colombian-style music group and its crew disappeared late last week, according to a state forensic official.

    LAST UPDATE : Jan 29, 2013, 3:31 PM EST
  • In this photo taken Friday Jan. 18, 2013, armed men sit in the back of a pick-up truck near Ayutla, Mexico.

    Vigilantes patrol a dozen or more towns in rural Mexico, the unauthorized but often tolerated edge of a growing movement toward armed citizen self-defense.

    LAST UPDATE : Jan 21, 2013, 11:42 AM EST